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GUIDE TO BUYING SURFBOARDS
Are you enthusiastic about surfing? The game is really enjoyable but before you hit the oceans it all starts by selecting the right surfboard. Modern designs have been tweaked to be completely user-friendly. The choices are many and making a decision on the right surfboard can be overwhelming, especially if you are a newbie.
Information is power, and this certainly applies when buying a new surfboard. Before you dive into the market you must acquire information that will help you to make a bold choice. And for your decision to be a comfortable and confident one you must know all the factors to consider before buying a surfboard. So where do you start when buying a surfboard?
We have compiled this guide to help you make the best decision. We will cover the terminologies used in the industry as well as the type of boards you can choose from. We believe in simplifying your way as you enter the market to buy your first board.
TYPES OF SURFBOARDS
All surfboards are not made to be equal, all of them vary in certain features. This is because the sport is dominated by surfers of different skill levels and styles. You can only accomplish your mission if only you know and understand how every type of surfboard works. Here are the most common types of surfboard you are likely to find in the market.
This is the best type of surfboard for beginners. They are most preferred by surf schools because they are safer, hard wearing, and they lend the surfer a lot of flotation that makes it easier to catch the waves.
If you are looking to enter the scenes the boards will give you the best introduction. The best thing si that they a less expensive and can be an essential surfing board for you family. You will be able to brush up on your basic surf skills and your kids will use the boards to learn.
| Cheap to buy
They are soft hence very safe
Good for surfing white-water
Easy to catch the waves
Come in either 3fin or single fin thrusters
| Not the best to surf shoulder high waves
They have a shorter lifespan
Difficult to paddle bigger foam boards.
The longboard is an essential surfing tool for a lifetime style master. This type of board will compliment your quiver during that small surfing day and one fascinating thing is that they offer the best feeling of the traditional surfing style.
These boards make the best out of their surface area and are superb in making the wave count up. Due to their large surface, they offer great buoyancy making it easier for learners to stand up and paddle on them.
The boards also offer a versatility of a kind and are not only limited to beginners. They allow even the pro surfers to execute distinct surfing styles and cruise more. Some of the boards in this category are made to let you stand 5 or 10 toes close to the nose. This makes them the best tool for nose surfers since they provide more volume for support. If you are looking to make critical turns then you can consider buying a performance longboard which is refined for short board surfing.
| Best way to learn surfing on hard boards
More maneuverable and faster
Can be used in bigger head-high waves
Better resale value
Best for lifetime surfers
| Difficult to transport since it’s heavy and bulky
USEFUL TIP: this type of board is more about the wave, your surfing style, and choice and less about your ability or skill level. Therefore, before buying the longboard you must know the conditions of the oceans where you will be surfing and they decide how well they will suit your surfing style.
To ride on the shortboards you must have great confidence in your ability. These boards provide incredible maneuverability and are well-known for delivering excellent performance.
The boards have a low surface area which translates to a lower buoyancy. This makes them very difficult to ride and are only perfect for steeper, larger, and powerful waves.
Shortboards are made in varying styles they are meant for different types of waves including beach waves, fast barreling waves, and the slower peeling waves. In most cases, these boards have a round or square tail and a pointed nose. They have 3 fins and depending on your shape preference and the fin size they can always be changed.
| Easier to turn
They are lightweight
Fits in the car easily
You can easily duck dive
Available in both quad and tri fins version.
| Only designed for bigger waves
Not the best for beginners
Can be difficult to catch waves.
USEFUL TIP: when buying a short surfboard you must inspect all the features keenly. A minor difference can be the reason to a successful or failed surfing. This board is best for bigger and powerful waves and the best way to have the best experience on them is having a varied quiver. You will be best-placed to deal with what the oceans will present.
MINI MALS [7ft-8ft]
This type of boards resembles a mini/smaller version of the longboards/mals hence the name mini mals. These boards are excellent in wave catching, stability and offer great paddling power thanks to their large volume. They are easy to initiate turns thanks to their slight tail refinements.
The boards are similar to the longboards in terms of the design features like the round nose. However, they are better than the longboards in maneuverability and are god at catching waves and maintaining you in balance because of their full shape
| Easier to carry and transport
Improves paddle fitness and surfing skills faster
Can be taken on planes
Incredible resale value
Best for lifetime surfers
| Can be difficult to catch waves
Slower than the shortboards
USEFUL TIP: if you are looking for a surfboard to help you catch most of the waves, then the mini mal should be your friend. They are the best for sessions when you paddle fitness is wanting especially after a long spell out of surfing.
FISH SURFBOARDS [6.4ft plus]
This type of boards are full and wide which translates to plenty of volume. For this reason, it’s easier to paddle fast and catch the smaller and weaker waves. The fish surfboards are good at generating more speed especially when you are up and riding. The board is shorter than the short boards, hence deliver better maneuverability.
It’s easier to turn on the fish boards since they are super curvy. They also have a shallow tail which helps in loosening the surfboard up to offer two pivot points for easier turning. The board is loose enough to offer maneuverability and is nice at picking up speed.
| Come in a number of cool designs
It is reasonably priced
easy to duck dive
surf a number of waves
lightweight and easy to carry
more maneuverable and faster
can be carried in planes
it good for beginners
| a challenge for beginner to catch waves
easily susceptible to dings
poor resale value
USEFUL TIP: this board is not the best suited for all surfing conditions. If you are looking for a surfboard that will not make you surfing less critical then this is not the board for you. But when doing the below average surf then this board is your savior.
This is the type of boards that fall between the shortboards and the mini mals. Because of the reduced size, this type of boards offers incredible maneuverability and have a great buoyancy that helps you catch many waves. The nose of these boards is pointier than that of the mini mals making them perfect for ducking diving.
The boards are versatile enough and can be used in a number of waves. If you are still at the lower level of experience you can use this boards to try the demanding surfing conditions. On the other hand, if you are a pro surfer you will find great fun using this boards, especially in the quiver.
| Come in both thruster and single fin versions.
Lightweight hence easy to carry
Easier to paddle
Best for surfing knee high waves all the way to the overhead high waves.
Have an excellent resale value
Can easily fit in your car
| Less volume than the long boards, hence can be difficult to catch some waves.
Not as fast as the shortboard
USEFUL TIP: when shopping for board do not be scared by the large volume of the fun boards. It’s better too much than little. When the volume of the board is less you will find it difficult to initiate turns.
FACTOR TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A SURFBOARD:
Now that you want to buy surfboard do you know the factors to consider before committing to one? Buying a surfboard should be taken serious and you should never make a blind buy. Whether you are planning to take surfing as a career or for fun buying the best surfboard is of paramount importance. Carrying out your own research will help you understand some the factors to consider but cannot be as comprehensive as what we have detailed here. Do not rely on the advice given by the shop staffs, you might end up getting objective advice or buying a product you do not want.
Here are the factors to consider before buying a surfboard.
You must purchase a surfboard that will be appropriate to your surfing experience. This might not mean a lot to a pro surfer but if you are a novice this is one of the most important considerations to make. Surfers are divided into three major groups/classes
A beginner is a surfer who is just starting or has attended a number of limited classes. At this skill level, you are just getting your pop-up, paddling technique and stance to make sure they are correct. You stability is also an issue and you are just able to surf at snail speed.
If you are at this level your focus should be to get a board that will offer maximum buoyancy for increased stability. Bigger and longer board are best for beginners because they have a larger volume which makes it easier for you to stand up.
If you are an advanced beginner a longboard will serve you best because it’s generally stable making it easy to paddle which is an essential factor for all beginners.
Under this category shop for foam boards, mini mals, and some longboards.
If you are at this level you feel comfortable on the board. Your ability to pick waves has improved and you are at a stage where dropping, climbing, making a few turns feel more than comfortable. However, the power in your maneuvers is not yet to the best level, for this reason, you should consider buying a board that will accord maximum maneuverability.
The best board for all intermediates is the fun boards because it combines both the ease of the longboards and the maneuverability of the short boards.
As a pro surfer, you are used to surfing in almost all the surfing conditions. You spend some consistent and good amount of your time in the oceans catching different types of waves. At this level, you got the confidence to maneuver and make turns and still remain stable in holding your line in a hostile barrel.
You are almost able to pick the best surfing board for your skill level. The best surfing board for advanced surfers is the shorter boards since they make it easier to maneuver. You should also consider thicker boards which will accord more buoyancy
Your level of fitness is another factor to consider when buying a surfboard. Fitness is not directly related to your experience, you can be the best surfer in the world but are not fit. In such situations, you should select a board that will rhyme with your conditions.
You must be realistic about you condition because at the time when your fitness is low your boards will seemingly be thicker and wider. Worry not you just need to adjust to the situations. If you still intend to use the same board as you used to just make sure you taper it down to a good rail and keep it on its thicker side.
Your age will hugely influence the fitness level and hence your endurance. The best board to buy when your fitness level is down is a board with plenty of volume as it will offer easier maneuverability and increased buoyancy. This is because during such a time you tend to tire quickly but with increased volume under you will be able to stretch your sessions.
HEIGHT AND WEIGHT
What is your weight and height? Before you head to a surfboard shop you must know this two aspects. Most of the volume calculators will rely on these two elements to determine the best board for you. The two element will be used to determine you size which when combined with other factors dictates the best board volume you should put under you.
Another important factor to consider is the type of wave where you will be surfing. Because there are many types of wave it’s easier to find a vast majority of lifetime surfer owning a quiver of surfboards.
The wave conditions and types are different from one place to the other, they also vary from day to day. If you would like to be in better position consider owning one or two surfboard suited for different wave conditions. However, if you are a budget conscious person you can buy a longboard (depending on your level of ability) because they are able to adapt to a variety of wave types.
Understanding how different wave type work will make your progress easier. It will also go a long way in helping you to maximize your time in the water since you will have a better insight into how your surfboards work in the waves.
The best design for your ideal surfboard will be influenced by personal preference amongst other factors. The universe of surfboards in the market can make it overwhelming to select the right one. But the design presents the best way to narrow down your options.
But just before you decide on the best design, you must clearly define the type of performance you crave, and the right shape to match it. By define the right shape and design you will clearly, honest, realistically eliminate almost eliminate 75% of the surfboards in the market. This will help you to narrow your focus to only a few surfboards.
If you want to buy only the best surfboard focus on the design first because it trumps almost every other factor.
For long the volume has been considered to be eccentric. In fact, a bigger percentage of the surfers do not know their volume range off-head. Most of the boards in the market will have their volume written on them if you find one without this volume label use the online calculators to get its volume.
For punchy surf, you require less volume since you are most likely to get flicked into the water. On the other hand, more volume is required for flat-faced and gutless surf because you require more effort to paddle to plane into the waves.
The volume of the board should be your guiding factor as you build your quiver. Your long boards as you begin should have the most volume and you go on progressing to boards with the least volume. If you are just starting focus on buying the foam and macking boards because they have more volume. Once your design is in harmony with the board volume, you will have the best surfing experience.
Once you have the volume and design of your ideal boards then you should now focus on the dimensions. The dimension of the surfboard is the set of numbers that define the volume of your choice.
Narrower boards produce a higher rail to rail speed. They also make it harder to turn at high speed. On the other hand, wide boards provide more glide, horsepower, and stability. They present an extra foam that helps you to stay buoyant than on the average board.
When you go shopping select longer boards if you want more rail line and increased momentum when turning. Longer boards also provide a greater drive and are best for beginners.
These three factors design, dimension, and the volume will be of great help as you strive to weed through the surfboard options and pick the best one for you.
There are three types of durability to consider
How long will the flex or the spring of the board remain at its best? You will not use your board forever but before buying any type you must be sure it will serve for long. You do not want to buy a board then after some months it flattens like a soaked noodle.
BOARD BREAKAGE DURABILITY
Insist on buying a board with quality and guaranteed stringer thickness, blank density, and glass schedule.
DING RESISTANT DURABILITY
The ding resistance ensures that even when you drop you board on a hard surface you won’t fracture its surface. Ding resistance is best in sandwich constructions that have hard foam shells.
Know the type of durability that suits your situation will help you make the best buy. For example, if you want to bounce around on the boat you should go for a boat with breakage or performance durability.
ALTERNATIVE TECH AND PU/POLY
This is a true surfboard construction that has been tried on many models. Poly boards are strong, light and are the perfect fit for most of the surfers. Most board builders have concentrated on constructing this type of boards. If you want a board that will be safe, look no further.
On the other hand, alternative tech is gaining popularity, especially the domesticated shapes and the grovelers. This new tech is also being used in the manufacture of shortboards. Boards made using the alternative tech are typically lighter than the poly boards. They are also durable and helps you to initiate turns easily. Alternative boards are also eco-friendly since they use bio-friendly resins and clothes and recycled foams blanks.
The inspiration behind alternative tech is the disposable pro board, but one that is lighter and durable than the poly boards. The boards deliver a lively feel in the right surfing conditions and can be addictive once you get used to them. One drawback to this boards is that the use of high-tech makes these boards very expensive.
FEATURES TO CONSIDER:
The features of the surfboard you buy will define its performance. So before you spend any amount on a board make sure you check the following features.
The rocker of the surfboard is the curve lifting the tail and the nose of the board. It is important to inspect the condition of this curve because it affects the ability of the board to turn and ride at high speed.
If you are the type of person who likes to perform exquisite turns it’s highly recommended you go for boards with greater curves. Boards with flat rockers are very fast but have maneuverability issues.
There many types of fin systems you can select when buying a surfboard. The difference brought about by these fins systems might not cause any drastic change but the type of fin system can. A surfboard has between 1 to 4 fins installed to direct water flow under the board to easier maneuverability and increase stability. The more the number of fins the better the stability of the board. But fewer fins makes it easier to turn the surfboard. The number of fins on a surfboard is directly proportional to the size of the board. This means a large surfboard will have more fins than a shorter board.
The following are some of the fin systems you will likely meet in the surfboard market.
This the most common fin system in the surf world. The system is comprised of excellent fins to change, chop, and try. The fins are not permanently fixed and can be changed at your own will.
One fascinating thing about this fin system is that the fins have a specially designed weak spot. This is a bonus such that if the system snaps the fins go but the plug remains in position.
This is an upgraded FCS system. The connections of the fins to the board is wider in the FCS. One major advantage of this system is that the pattern transfer of its flex is better, especially at the fin tip making it deliver incredible performance. You do not need any tool to work on this system since its fins snap in. the plug is larger than in the original system but this system makes the board slightly heavier.
This is one of the best and highly innovative fin system design. The fin box is designed to run the full fin length. This produces a strong system with the flex running to the fin tip thereby improving its performance.
This type of fin system gives you the freedom to customize the position of the fin by according up to 0.5-inch of movement. This designs perfect for resisting damage in case of impact.
The best board will come with removable fin, giving you the freedom to mix and match. Some of the modern boards come with up to 5 set up giving you the opportunity to switch between quad, thruster, twin, and single.
With this type of fin setup, you will rely on the board rails than the fins when turning in. they are great for beginners of people looking to refresh their surfing skills.
TWIN FIN SET UP
If you want a board that is completely loosened up then go for the one with this type of fin setup. This setup gives you plenty of release off your board’s tail. The twin fin system is mostly utilized on the fish surfboards.
This is the most popular fin system and most of the board in the surf world utilize this set up. It’s made up of three fins, which work together to offer incredible stability and drive. This type of set up is best suited for people in all the skill levels and performs incredibly well in all conditions.
This fin set up offers the best drive and direction. Its tail release when making turns is great in heavier waves because it is able to hold the line perfectly.
OUTLINE AND TAILS
The outline is the overall shape of the board. Long surfboards have sides with gently sweeping curves and this is the reason they are difficult to initiate turns. Therefore if you are planning to perform magic turns go for shorter boards.
Tails come in different shapes and sizes. The variety of tail you are likely to find on the fins include; bat, half crescent, pin, square, round, squash, swallow. A wider tail will be able to support aggressive turns. The square tails offer the widest tail option, whereas the pin is the narrowest. Boards with round tails make turns easily while those with the swallow tail are can make sharp cutting turns.
LEASHES OR LEG ROPES
These are safety equipments that are designed to help you keep surfing for longer periods. The leashes are designed to attach around the ankle of your back foot via the Velcro wrap. The opposite end of the leashes attaches to the surfboard’s tail, this ensures the boards is with you even when you accidentally fall off the wave.
The leashes are also very useful in preventing surfboards hitting other, and cannot be washed around meaning you have a device to float with at all times. When shopping for a surfboard, select the one with a leash that is almost equal to the board length.
The leash of your board should be considerably short. A leash that extends beyond the rail or tail can end up cutting through your board in case it snaps tight.
This is the raised grippy rubber that is usually stuck on the end of the board’s deck. The grip pads or traction pads come in different shapes and designs from those with a single piece to the ones with multiple sections. This allows you to adjust the padding to the one that suits the board width.
This feature performs varying functions but its primary role is to enhance the grip. It’s also very helpful in positioning your back foot. Because of the bumpy and raised section, they offer great grip at a number of angles. This proves to be a great advantage when you are initiating radical turns as it helps to push the board’s tail.
If you are planning to surf barefoot you require a board with good grip. The pads will enable you to have good foot placement which goes a long way in improving your surfing technique.
Surfboard wax helps to keep you in place on the board. It is because of the wax that your feet does not slide out of the board and even your body when paddling. The best type of wax will depend on the temperatures of the waters where you are surfing. There are different types of wax including; warm water wax, cold water wax, tropical water wax, and base coat wax.
When applying the wax it’s good to first use the base coat or cold water wax first. These wax create a rough surface which is best for applying the regular wax.
This might not be critical but it will mean a lot especially if you are planning to travel with your surfboards. Surfboards are easily damaged (dinged) especially when transporting them. The surf bag will offer protection to your board and keep it in top condition.
If you are planning to surf in varying ocean conditions it’s good to consider buying a bag with the capability to carry multiple boards. If you are carrying your surfboards in a car go for thinner bags but if you plan to travel by air thicker bags will do the best job.
These bags are also specially designed with reflective materials to prevent the boards from getting damaged by heat, especially when traveling in hot countries.
It’s also good to use soft gear or towels when packing out the board’s tail and nose. This ensures maximum protection to your boards.
You will require the wetsuit if you are planning to surf in cold water temperatures. These suits are made in a special way using foamed neoprene material which is provides excellent thermal insulation in cold waters. The neoprene material fills up small war quantities which your body can heat up easily. The material then traps this heated water around your body thereby keeping you warm.
Due to technological advancement, the modern wetsuits are now manufactured using super-stretchy neoprene. This has made it easier for surfers to paddle and at the same time retain heat around the body.
USEFUL SURFBOARD TIPS:
- Never expose your surfboards to extreme temperature changes to avoid rapid contractions and expansion which might damage the board.
- Always fix the dings as soon as they occur, if you continue surfing in dinged up boards it might become waterlogged hence susceptible to damage.
- Perform regular checks on the surface of your board for dents and cracks which might not be easily visible.
- Never leave your surfboard exposed to elements that might damage it. Store the board when not in use.
- If possible it’s highly recommended you buy your board in person rather than buying it online. Paying the cash in hand will give you the opportunity to inspect the board before you commit.
- If you are buying second-hand board make sure its surface is well scrapped off. Waxing can conceal dodgy repairs and prevent you from seeing all the faults.
TOP SURFBOARDS BRANDS:
These are the top companies that have taken the needs of every surfer and put them into consideration when manufacturing surfboards:
JASON STEVENSON [JS]
The Jason Stevenson Company is known globally for the manufacture of quality surfing products. Their products are well-known and most respected across the globe. The company was started by Jason Stevenson who was very popular for his surfing talent.
This company has earned recognition from the op surfers and it easy to see why they have become a respectable brand in the surfing world.
PU surfboards are known to reign supreme in the surf world, but FIREWIRE has taken the world by storm by producing great eco-friendly boards. Besides producing award-winning boards this company has earned its place as a top brand by producing stylish and popular wood models.
CHANNEL ISLAND has been in the scenes since 1969, all along they have managed to consistently manufacture great quality surfboards. This company uses a high innovative approach in the manufacture of boards with advanced designs.
RUSTY HAND has built a legacy of manufacturing hand-shaped custom surfboards. This company is known as the “MERCEDES BENZ” of the surf world because of their exquisite and highly innovative skills of producing boards that are tailor-made for the needs of every surfer.
RIP CURL has been making surf accessories for more than 30 years. Besides being a popular surfboard maker this company has won the hearts of many surfers with their wetsuits. They have managed to get a considerable market share by marketing themselves as a lifestyle brand.
The idea behind LOST SURFBOARD is Matt Biolos’ who since the late 1980s has been working with surfboards. This company is recognized as one of the best shapers of surfboards in the industry.
O’NEIL has been in the American surf scenes since the 1950s. The company is well known for the manufacture of swimsuits but they are good at making quality surfboards.